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News :: Organizing
Counter-recruitment spreads like wildfire
04 Aug 2005
This crisis in military recruiting is a direct result of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Before the war, it was easier to lure young people with false promises of easy money for college and high-tech job training. But now, youth and parents realize that enlisting means a good possibility of being sent to Iraq and that can mean joining the 1,800 who have already died in Iraq or coming home permanently scarred or traumatized.
War grinds up more Iraqis, GIs as
Counter-recruitment spreads like wildfire

By Hussam Eltayeb and
Dustin Langley

On the morning of July 29, activists with FIST (Fight Imperialism—Stand Together) in Raleigh, N.C., learned that the U.S. Army was launching a recruitment drive on the campus of North Carolina State University. The goal of the recruiters was to target incoming freshmen attending their orientation to the university.

Within a two-hour time frame, Raleigh FIST members along with a dozen other antiwar activists surrounded the Army recruiters and formed a picket line surrounding their Hummer. Activists carried placards denouncing the war, the draft and military recruiting.

While picketing the recruiters, activists collected signatures on the “I Refuse” petition from No Draft No Way. (

After only a few minutes, the recruiters packed up and left. As they fled the scene, one of the activists pursued them, flapping her arms and squawking like a chicken, as others followed them with signs and chants that said “No blood for oil” and “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation.”

Resistance to military recruitment is spreading like wildfire.

Recruiters’ lies caught on video

This spring in Colorado, 17-year old David McSwane went undercover, posing as a high-school dropout with a marijuana habit trying to enlist in the U.S. Army. “I wanted to see how far they’d go to get another soldier,” said McSwane, a reporter for the Westwind at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colo. With the help of a 15-year-old friend on camcorder and his 11-year-old sister with a still camera, McSwane helped expose the extent to which recruiters are driven to dishonest tactics by the crisis in military recruiting.

When McSwane was finished with his investigation, Army recruiters had been caught encouraging him to purchase a phony high school diploma and accompanying him to a head shop to buy him a detox kit to help him pass the Army’s drug test.

“I was shocked,” McSwane said. “I’m sitting there looking at a poster that says ‘Integrity, Honor, Respect’ and he is telling me to lie.”

Those familiar with military recruiting tactics know well that this is not an isolated event. In fact, lying, threatening potential recruits, making false
promises, and other dishonest practices are becoming more common. By the Army’s own count, there were 320 substantiated cases of what it calls “recruitment improprieties” in 2004. Nearly one in five recruiters were investigated last year for misconduct.

According to a New York Times story on May 3, 2005, recruiters feel forced to “play fast and loose with the rules just to get by.” Many described falsifying records, forging high school diplomas and lying to potential recruits, promising them that they would not be sent to Iraq. One recruiter was caught on tape threatening a student with arrest if he didn’t come in for a meeting at the recruiting station.

The Army, desperate to make up a recruiting deficit of about 8,000 this fiscal year, is unable to find enough qualified recruits and is having to overlook or cover up factors that would usually keep people out of the military. One recruiter in Ohio told the New York Times that one out of every three enlistees has a problem that normally would disqualify them from service. “The only people who want to join the Army now have issues,” he said. “They’re troubled, with health, police or drug problems.”

This crisis in military recruiting is a direct result of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Before the war, it was easier to lure young people with false promises of easy money for college and high-tech job training. But now, youth and parents realize that enlisting means a good possibility of being sent to Iraq and that can mean joining the 1,800 who have already died in Iraq or coming home permanently scarred or traumatized. The Army Surgeon General has announced that 30 percent of U.S. troops returning from the Iraq war have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home.

But it’s not just the risk to life and limb that’s driving recruiting numbers down. Polls now show that most in the U.S. believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It is now widely understood that the Bush Administration lied about weapons of mass destruction, and that this is a war of conquest, not liberation.

Joe Satterthwaite, a 16-year-old student in Boston, told the Globe, ‘’It doesn’t seem fun or interesting to be going over to Iraq to fight people and kill them. And the whole thought of dying when you’re 18 sounds pretty bad.”

The Dallas Morning News, in a story titled “Army battling decline in black recruits,” quoted 18-year-old DeTorrian Rhone, who said, “Most of the kids say they don’t want to fight for a country that’s pickin’ on other countries. I don’t want to fight because this [Iraq] war was stupid, it wasted money. Army people are getting killed for nothing, and we should have stayed in our own business.”

Instead of rushing to enlist, many are now organizing to keep recruiters off campus and out of their communities. Parents, teachers, students and activists are forming local groups to challenge and expose the lies of the recruiting machine.

In New York, City Council member Charles Barron, working with the Troops Out Now Coalition, has introduced a resolution that would ban military recruiters from public schools.

The proposed law, which will be taken up by the council’s Education Committee, would prohibit representatives of the armed services from utilizing any Board of Education facilities for the purpose of recruitment and prohibit the board from disclosing any student information to the military without prior written authorization from such students’ parents or guardians.

Larry Holmes of the Troops Out Now Coalition commented, “The United States military is aggressively engaged in recruiting young people in the public schools. The military concentrates its recruiting efforts on communities of color where, due to poverty, inadequate education, bleak job opportunities and misinformation, young people are easy prey for military recruiters. Parents generally tend to be unaware that public schools are required to provide the military with lists of student names and addresses.

“But legislation alone is not enough,” Holmes continued, “It will be up to community activists, students and youth organizers, antiwar activists and parents to turn a piece of legislation into a rallying call for mass organizing strong enough to ban the warmakers from our schools.”

The No Draft No Way network, a counter-recruiting and antidraft organization, is planning a fall campaign called “An Army of None.” The network, which has thousands of volunteers across the U.S., will work to establish “military-free zones” in schools and communities—areas where recruiters are unable to operate because of organized opposition.

As part of this strategy, No Draft No Way is producing thousands of Activists Tool Kits, which will include “We Won’t Go: The Truth About Military Recruiting & the Draft,” a 120-page book that will expose military recruiters’ lies and tactics. The book will also lay out tactics for organizing against recruiting in schools and communities. Accompanying the book will be a two-hour DVD that will include video presentations about military recruiting and counter-recruiting activities, as well as printable fliers, posters and opt-out forms. The book and DVD will serve as a complete organizing kit, and No Draft No Way plans to distribute thousands of copies to youth, parents and activists.

In addition, No Draft No Way is encouraging local organizers to work to pass resolutions in their PTA, student government, school board, or city council banning military recruiters from local schools.

Throughout the fall, No Draft No Way organizers will also be confronting military recruiters on campus, in their communities and at their recruiting stations. Peter Gilbert, one of the organizers of the Raleigh action against military recruiting, said, ’ve already had success in driving recruiters off of our campus, and we know that nationwide, counter-recruiting activists are having a real impact. Recruit ers now know that they can’t come on to our campus without being confronted and challenged by activists who will expose the truth behind their sales pitch.

“Now is the time to take it up a notch and declare every school and neighborhood absolutely ‘off-limits’ to recruiters.”

-- 30 --

Eltayeb is a member of Raleigh FIST. Langley is a No Draft! No Way! organizer.

Labor donated.

-- END --
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